For its second edition, Locarno in Los Angeles is doing things a little differently: This year’s festival, which runs April 5—8 at the Downtown Independent, will focus on award-winning titles from the vaunted Swiss fest. That includes Wang Bing’s “Mrs. Fang” (International Competition Golden Leopard), Metev’s “3/4,” (Filmmakers of the Present Golden Leopard), and Nelson Carlo De Los Santos Arias’ “Cocote” (Signs of Life Award).
“Locarno Festival has always paid great attention to U.S. cinema, bringing to Europe some of the best examples of a truly independent cinematic spirit; now having the opportunity to showcase our selection in the city of cinema is a great counterpoint to that,” said Locarno Festival artistic director Carlo Chatrian in a statement. “Therefore I’m happy that, after a successful first edition, Locarno in Los Angeles is back with an expanded program, including last edition’s major winners. I salute the work of the curators and I’m thankful to the partners who have made it possible. Looking at the rich and diverse line- up, I’m confident that the roar of the Leopard will charm many Angelinos.”
The festival comes at a time when Los Angeles’ arthouse scene is at least somewhat in flux. With the once-beloved Cinefamily now permanently closed following a sexual-misconduct scandal and an Alamo Drafthouse said to be to opening this spring, the country’s second-largest city finds itself in need of events like this to rally around.
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Ben Russell (“Good Luck”) and Blake Williams (“PROTOTYPE”) will both appear in person, as will more to-be-announced guests. Tickets and multi-film packages go on sale on Friday, March 9. Here’s the full lineup:
“3/4 (Three Quarters)”
Ilian Metev, Bulgaria, Germany · 2017 · DCP · Color · 82′ · o.v. Bulgarian
3/4 follows a father with his son and daughter during their walk across the city. Their short age difference underlines the narrow distance between childhood and first responsibilities. The shooting style is opposite, compared to the recently predominant tracking shot filming the back of the head of silent actors in order to reveal the space ahead. Metev prefers preceding his characters and shows their stride and movement with a shot reverse shot that becomes the ideal tool to seize the different dynamics of language, in particular the free language of youth and its catchphrases, onomatopoeias, verses, repetitions and provocations. The external shots are flooded by the light of a strange and interrupted warm season; the internal shots are perfect frameworks. But what most of all moves us in 3/4 is its patient rhythm, the moderate austerity that portraits verbal and physical interactions with rare and decent precision, the mastery of a stubbornly bounded and refined repertoire that generates the essential gap to the wonder. Winner: Golden Leopard (Filmmakers of the Present)
“La telenovela errante (The Wandering Soap Opera)”
Raul Ruiz, Chile · 1990/2017 · DCP · Color · 80′ · o.v. Spanish
“The film revolves around the concept of soap opera. Its structure is based on the assumption that Chilean reality does not exist, but rather is an ensemble of soap operas. There are four audiovisual provinces, and the threat of war is felt among the factions. The political and economic problems are immersed in a fictional jelly divided into evening episodes. The entire Chilean reality is viewed from the point of view of the soap opera, which acts as a revealing filter of this same reality.” – Raúl Ruiz
Nelson Carlo De Los Santos Arias, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Germany, Qatar · 2017 · DCP · Color and Black and White · 106′ · o.v. Spanish
Alberto (Vicente Santos), a gardener for a rich family in Santo Domingo, returns to his hometown after hearing of his father’s murder. Upon arrival, he discovers that his sisters expect from him to participate in the mourning rituals of the Nine-Nights. In this Southern region of the country, where traditions have developed around both Catholic and African elements, which differ on the forms of faith; hence, the evangelical Alberto sees the rituals as superstition. To complicate matters further, his hot-tempered sisters demand that he plays his part as the surviving man of the family and avenge their slain father. But the murder is anything but banal: brutal, ordered by an influential man and perpetrated by an old acquaintance. A soundtrack made of Dominican rhythms soar as the filmmaker lets scenes play out and mounting tensions reverberate. Winner: Signs of Life Award (Signs of Life). Q&A with Nelson Carlo De Los Santos Arias following the screening.
Xu Bing, China, U.S. · 2017 · DCP · Color · 81′ · o.v. Mandarin
Each of us is captured on surveillance cameras, on average, 300 times a day. These all-seeing “eyes” observe Qing Ting too, a young woman, as she leaves the Buddhist temple where she has been training to become a nun. She returns to the secular world, where she takes a job in a highly mechanized dairy farm. There, Ke Fan, a technician, falls in love with her, breaks the law in an attempt to please her and is sent to jail. On his release, he can’t find Qing Ting and looks for her desperately until he figures out that she has reinvented herself as the online celebrity Xiao Xiao. Ke Fan decides to revamp himself.
“The First Lap”
Kim Dae-hwan, South Korea, · 2017 · DCP · Color · 101′ · o.v. Korean
Su-hyeon, a teacher at a private art institute, and Ji-young, a contract worker at a small network enterprise have been living together for six years. To his surprise, Su-hyeon finds out that Ji-young is late for her period and, in view of the birth of his child, he seizes the opportunity to reunite with his family. The couple sets off for Samcheok, at the far end of the east coast. Winner: Best Emerging Director (Filmmakers of the Present)
“Le fort des fous”
Narimane Mari, France, Qatar, Germany, Algeria · 2017 · DCP · Color · 140′ · o.v. Algerian/French/Greek/English
Using archives from the early scientific expeditions and taming campaigns led by the French colonizers in North Africa, Le Fort de fous follows a community of young nomads and wanderers as they form an imagined utopian society in response to imperialistic rule. Reenactments, improvisations, and interviews are conducted with the inhabitants of Algiers, Kythira Island and the Prosfygika community in Athens to describe an alternative temporality and autonomous space, reflecting on the transmission and re-appropriation of history and reviving memories as strategies of resistance. Q&A with Narimane Mari following the screening.
Ben Russell, France, Germany · 2017 · DCP · Color · 143′ · o.v. Serbian, Saramaccan
Shot on Super16mm, Good Luck is a portrait of two mining communities operating on opposite sides of a hostile world: the state employees of a 400m-deep underground Serbian copper mine and the Maroon laborers of an illegal gold mining operation in the jungle tropics of Suriname. Q&A with Ben Russell following the screening.
Wang Bing, France, China, Germany · 2017 · DCP · Color · 86′ · o.v. Mandarin
Fang Xiuying was a farmer born in Huzhou, Fujian in 1948. She suffered from Alzheimer’s for the last eight years of her life. By 2015, her symptoms were already very advanced and her treatment in a convalescent home was ineffective, so it was discontinued in June 2016 and she returned home. The film follows her ordeal first in 2015, and then in 2016 during the last ten days of her life. Winner: Golden Leopard (International Competition)
“Once There Was Brasilia”
Adirley Queirós, Brazil, Portugal · 2017 · DCP · Color · 100′ · o.v. Portuguese
In 1959, the intergalactic agent WA4 was arrested for illegally occupying private land. He receives a mission: to go to planet Earth and kill the president of the Republic, Juscelino Kubitschek, on the day of Brasília’s inauguration. But his spaceship lands in Ceilândia, the largest satellite city of Brasília and the capital of its prison. Only Andreia, the queen of the post-war, can help him to assemble an army able to kill the monsters who inhabit the National Congress. A documentary recorded in the Year 0 P.C. (Post-Coup), in the Federal District and its surroundings. Winner: Special Mention (Signs of Life)
Basma Alsharif, France, Palestine, Belgium, Qatar · 2017 · DCP · Color · 77′ · o.v. Italian/English/Chinook
An homage to the Gaza Strip, Ouroboros follows a man through five different landscapes, upending mass-mediated representation of trauma. A journey outside of time, marking the end as the beginning, exploring the subject of the eternal return and how we move forward when all is lost.
Blake Williams, Canada, U.S. · 2017 · DCP · 3D · Color · 63′ · o.v. No Dialogue
As the deadliest natural disaster is U.S. history strikes Galveston, Texas, taking an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 lives, a mysterious televisual device projects images of unknown origin. Blake Willliams’s experimental 3-D film immerses us in the storm’s aftermath, at every minute represented by remarkable and mysterious sights of one world nearing destruction as another emerges. A consideration of technology, cinema, and the medium’s future, PROTOTYPE is equal parts dense and fleet—an unprecedented experience with no clear ancestor or likely successor. Q&A with Blake Williams following the screening.
“Sweating the Small Stuff”
Ninomiya Ryutaro, Japan · 2017 · DCP · Color · 114′ · o.v. Japanese
Ryutaro Ninomiya, 27 years old, lives a fairly simple life. He works at an auto-repair shop, reads books and drinks a few beers. One day, he receives a phone call from Yusuke, his childhood friend whose mother, Ryuko, is dying from Hepatitis C. Despite knowing for a while that Ryuko was sick, Ryutaro hasn’t visited her, but today he decides to go.
Pedro Cabeleira, Portugal · 2017 · DCP · Color · 128′ · o.v. Portuguese
Chico’s summer starts at home, with his grandparents, under the cover of the lemon trees. An outlet. The ground of his childhood memories. But now, he belongs to Lisbon, where he graduated and where he hopes to find a career. Chico is part of a generation without prospects and expectations, where reaching adulthood seems to be perpetually delayed. The nights of Lisbon, intoxicated by its affections and heartbreaks, hold him in a psychedelic hedonism, where burning anguish fuels euphoria. Winner: Special Mention (Filmmakers of the Present)
Luis López Carrasco, Spain · 2017 · DCP · Color and Black and White · 23′ · o.v. Spanish
An alien is a foreigner, an outcast and, in popular culture, an inhabitant from another planet. Tesa Arranz, a key figure in the 1980s Madrid scene and the lead singer of the Zombies, has painted over 700 portraits of outer-space creatures. Confronting the singer’s paintings with the memories of her youth, her poems and diaries, Aliens depicts the emotional landscape, in Spanish history, where happiness, nightmarish experimentations and alienation walked hand in hand.
Dane Komljen, Germany, Denmark · 2017 · DCP · Color · 17′ · o.v. Ukrainian
Many years ago, the cities by the river were gripped by a contagion. Things started to change and it was not clear if the transformation was a symptom of the disease or a way to escape it. The contagion touched everything: animals, plants, stones, soil, men, women and children, their thoughts, dreams, memories. An old woman once told me how all memories turn into trees; I could hardly make out what she was saying. She said she could hear the trees singing: to be a body, to be any body. After the contagion ended, the cities appeared untouched. One had to look hard to see the traces of the previous time. If one could listen to the trees, what would they say? A way out, a way out? Winner: Fondación Casa Wabi – Mantarraya Award (Signs of Life)
Helena Girón/Samuel M. Delgado, Spain · 2017 · DCP · Color · 13′ · o.v. Spanish
“Plus Ultra” is the motto of the Spanish state. This slogan was used to encourage navigators to conquer new territories and to forget the warning from mythology: “Non Terrae Plus Ultra” (there is no land beyond here). The Canary Islands, testing ground for the tactics used during the colonization of the Americas, becomes the setting for a tale about this land.
Kazik Radwanski, Canada · 2017 · DCP · Color · 15′ · o.v. Bosnian/English
Canada. Recent immigrants work on a scaffolding. In order to break their routine they observe the people beneath them, from a unique, precarious and ephemeral point of view.
“Wasteland No. 1: Ardent, Verdant”
Jodie Mack, U.S. · 2017 · 16mm · Color · 5′ · o.v. No Dialogue
A eulogy for wasted potential sends the out of date to the out of body: trash to treasure. An appetite for destruction charts the product life cycle, interrupting the horizon through an intersection of perspectives.